Book Review: Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating

parents-guide-sex-and-datingLast year I did a parent seminar called “Social Media 101” and in preparation for that seminar I read Mark Oestreicher and Adam Mclane’s book A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. I really enjoyed that book and would highly recommend it to parents. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating by Mark Oestreicher and Joel Mayward is another book in this series that I really enjoyed and would also recommend to parents.

Packed in this little book is a ton of helpful information for parents (and youth workers) about teen sex and dating. Oestreicher and Mayward start the book with laying a theological foundation for sex. Whenever we talk about things regarding sex it’s always important to go back to the theological foundation God put in place for sex, marriage, and relationships. I love how they started the book with this and even explained how the fact humans have been created in the “image of God” (imago dei) impacts how our sexuality. On that Biblical foundation the writers deal with myths from culture and the church about sex (chapter 2), gender-specific sexual issues (chapter 3), how to talk to your teenager about sex and creating boundaries for dating (chapter 4-5), and covering specific issues in regards to sex and dating such as masturbation, homosexuality, oral sex, and modesty (chapter 6).

As much as I liked this book, I did however disagree with some of the writers conclusions on a few of the sexual issues they covered in the last chapter, namely masturbation and homosexuality.

In regards to masturbation, they say, “Masturbation is one of those subjects that Christians have done a horrible job of addressing” (page 59). I totally agree with that. Masturbation is a subject many times in the church we overlook and don’t address while teenagers, especially guys, are struggling with this addictive habit. However, the writers seem to simply dismiss masturbation is an issue that is normal for teens (being part of their development) and we shouldn’t worry too much about it. I have a hard time being ok with that conclusion. I do not believe the act of masturbation is a sin. There is no verse in the Bible that says it is. However, masturbation and lust are linked. One cannot masturbate without lusting (well maybe 1 in 1 billion people can). Also, I would argue that God’s plan if for a man and a woman to come together in sex and when one masturbates that receive sexual gratification in a way different from what God has planned. Because of that, I think masturbation is an issue we need to address with teens and help them see it’s closely linked to lust, which is clearly a sin, and goes against God’s plan for sex.

Not only did the writers conclusion on masturbation not sit well with me, their conclusion on homosexuality was a little fuzzy and not clear. They seemed to skip around the issue of homosexuality being a sin and just addressed how we should respond to teens struggling with this issue. I agree we need to respond better than the church has in the past towards homosexuality and we need to love and help those grapple with their sexuality, but at the end of the day homosexuality is a sin and we must call it a sin.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a better understanding of teen sex and dating. It also helped me understand how important parents are in this area and how I can encourage them to shepherd their child in the area of their sexuality. I would recommend parents of teenagers to grab a copy of this little book and read it. It will help you understand you minister and shepherd your teen immensely.

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Book Review: The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson

pastors-justificationThis weekend I finished reading Jared Wilson’s book The Pastor’s Justification. A few years ago I read Wilson’s book Gospel Wakefulness and was deeply impacted and challenged in my own love and excitement for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So when I saw this book pop up as a recommendation for me on Amazon I knew I had to give it a read. Not only do I enjoy Wilson’s books, I am a sucker for a good pastoral ministry book as I want to always be growing in the pastoral ministry God has placed me in.

Pastoral ministry is a battlefield. Wilson shows us this battle in the introduction of this book with some stats from research done by Barna. I don’t want to give those stats, but let me just say they are sobering and eye opening. It reveals that pastors are working 60 plus hours a week,  have very few friends, feels their families are being neglected, and are underpaid. Not only that, but many feel the temptation to engage in immoral behavior and are discouraged. Wilson says the right response to this battlefield called pastoral ministry is not “timidity or a pity party, but clinging more desperately to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (page 19). The Gospel is what refreshes, motivates, and keeps pastors in this battle.

Wilson breaks down this book into two parts: The Pastor’s Heart (Chapter 1-6) and The Pastor’s Glory (Chapter 7-11). In part one, Wilson walks through the reader through 1 Peter 5:1-11, which Wilson says is a “helpful Gospel-centered admonition to church leaders” (page 19). As Wilson walks through this passage he helps the reader understand what God calls pastors to do and how they should work on that calling as they shepherd the church God has given them. In part two, Wilson walks through the five “Solas of Reformation” and helps the reader understand how they apply to the pastor and his life.

For the most part I enjoyed this book and it helped me get a better understanding and picture of what Gospel-centered pastoral ministry looks like. The main thing I didn’t like about this book was Wilson’s jabs at other pastors and ministries he obviously disagrees with. Throughout the book it seems as if Wilson is writing with a chip on his shoulder. If the reader is up to date on some of the “hot button” issues and key figures in modern church leadership they will catch these jabs and probably have a good idea of who Wilson is referring to.

Overall, Wilson has written a great book that I believe challenges and brings to light real issues in pastoral ministry. It’s an honest book that is saturated with the Gospel and is relevant to anyone who finds themselves in this glorious yet brutal journey we call pastoral ministry.

Book Review: Sticky Faith (Youth Worker Edition)

Sticky-FaithRecently I finished reading the book Sticky Faith: Youth Worker Edition. I have heard many good things about this book and have had a copy of it myself for awhile, but I never got around to reading it. I’m glad I finally picked it up and read it because it has been one of the most challenging youth ministry books I have ever read.

Sticky Faith: Youth Worker Edition is all about how youth workers can help develop long-term faith in teenagers. Let’s face it, if you have been in youth ministry for any stretch of time you know that many teenagers abandon the church and their faith after they graduate high school. Forty to fifty percent of teens who are connected to a  youth group when they graduate high school will fail to stick with their faith in college (page 15).

Based on research done by The Fuller Youth Institute, Sticky Faith: Youth Worker Edition outlines  the various factors that helps develop long-term faith in teenagers. The factors include things like the Gospel, identity, justice, parents, the youth group itself, and a few more. Each factor helps youth workers understand what develops long-term faith in teenagers. Each chapter is broken down into two parts. First, the “sticky findings.” This is the part the writers tell you what the research found in regards to that factor. Second, the “sticky faith made practical.” This is where the writers helps youth workers understand what they can do practically in their ministries to help develop long-term faith in teenagers.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on family relationships (chapter 6). At the end of the day, parents are the ones who are responsible for teaching and pointing their children to a healthy relationship with God. Youth workers just come alongside the parent and partner with them in this process. In fact, teenagers are heavily influenced by their parents when it comes to matters of faith. “Most teenagers and their parents may not realize it, but a lot of research in the sociology of religion suggests that the most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents” (page 117). This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because this is how God intended it (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). This chapter on family relationships was huge for me and helped me better understand why parents are so important in the faith development of teenagers. Also, it helped me understand how I can better partner with parents.

Overall, this was a great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who is a volunteer or paid youth worker. Our calling is to not just create a large youth group that teens love, but create a ministry that helps teenagers develop long-term faith that will outlast their youth group experience.

Book Review: Leadership as an Identity

9781575673073_p0_v1_s260x420I recently finished reading Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Loritts. Out of all the books I have read on leadership, this by far as been my favorite. Loritts approaches leadership in this book very different from most books on leadership. The leadership theme that runs throughout this book is leadership is not necessarily about what you do, but about who you are.

Most books on leadership, even Christian leadership books, tend to talk a lot about how leaders can develop and become better at what they do. Skill and professional development is the focus. Those things aren’t bad and leaders need to focus on those areas, but for Christian leaders they are not the priority. The first priority of a Christian leader is not really about their leadership at all, it’s about who they are. It’s about being a man or woman who is following Christ and growing in their relationship with Him. That is the point of Loritts book. In fact, Christian leaders don’t even have what it takes to get the job done. The assignment God has given them as leaders is too big for them. Loritts says, “It’s good to be reminded that we are most useful to God when we realize that in ourselves we don’t have what it takes to get His assignments done” (page 39). Christian leaders must be walking with Christ in order to do what He has called them to do because they cannot do it apart from Him. In John 15:5, Jesus reminds us, “…apart from me you can do nothing.”

Loritts breaks this book down into four main parts. Each part covers a characteristic that should be true of every Christian leader. The four characteristics that make up the four parts of this book are: brokenness, uncommon communion, servanthood, and radical and immediate obedience. I’d love to share what Loritts says about each of these, but I want you to grab a copy of this book and read it for yourself.

I would recommend anyone who finds themselves in Christian leadership to read this book. It’s challenging and will remind you that who you are as a leader is more important than what you do as a leader. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear

9781433679216Recently I finished reading the book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J.D. Greear. Don’t let the title fool you, the point of this book is not to discourage people from coming to Jesus, but instead, encourages people to place their faith and trust in Him and not in what many Christians call the “sinners prayer.” It’s a short book about doubt, assurance, and the Gospel.

I appreciate J.D.’s honesty and transparency in this book. In the first chapter of the book, as well as throughout the rest of the book, J.D. shares about his own struggle he had with doubt and assurance as he was growing up and into his college years. I can identify with his struggle and believe many other Christians can as well. J.D. writes this book with two audiences in mind. First, those who have said the “sinners prayer” and truly placed their faith and trust in Jesus, but still struggle with doubt. They wonder if they said the right words, were they sincere enough, did they really put their faith in Jesus, or if they were sorry enough for their sin. Second, he writes to those who have said the “sinners prayer,” but have really never placed their faith and trust in Jesus. J.D. says, “Jesus warned that there are a vast number of people who seem assured of a salvation they don’t actually possess” (pg. 4).

With those two audiences in mind, J.D. writes about what salvation really is and how someone can identify if they have been saved or not. Throughout the book J.D. communicates salvation in a very clear, Biblical way that I believe takes the focus off of the “sinners prayer” and on the person and work of Christ. He says, “Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life” (pg. 5).

This book has a great balance of theological meat and practical application. With chapters addressing questions like what is the Gospel? (Jesus in my place), what is belief?, what is repentance?, can you loose your salvation?, J.D. captures great theological truths found in God’s Word. Then J.D. explains the practical side of this issue. He shares practical ways from God’s Word to know you have been born again and what one should do when they continue to doubt (which is not to say the prayer again, but to continue in a posture of repentance and faith in Jesus).

I believe J.D. has written a great defense of salvation by faith in Christ alone and not on a “sinners prayer” ritual. Growing up in the Bible belt of our country like J.D. did, I have seen much emphasis be put on the “sinners prayer.” I have seen too many preachers ask people to walk down an aisle, repeat a prayer, and put more emphasis on that ritual than on faith in Jesus. This book helps us see the prayer doesn’t do anything, Jesus has done everything and all people have to do is respond to Him in repentance in faith. That may be done through a prayer or it may not. Salvation does not come through a prayer, it comes through repentance and faith in Jesus.

This has been the most helpful book I have ever read when it comes to dealing with doubt and assurance. It has been a helpful for me as I have had period of doubts in my own Christian walk and I believe it will be a great help to others in this area as well. It’s a short, easy to read book that will help you understand the Gospel and what salvation really is. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book.